Five Takeaways from the Roma – AC Milan Clash

Di Francesco rallies, saves his job. Zaniolo provides the tying goal as Roma and Milan battle for fourth place.

Eusebio Di Francesco willing to change in the face of adversity

The embattled Roma boss needed an offensive spark and sound defense from his squad on Sunday and that’s exactly what he received, dispelling any rumors that he had lost the locker room. In a tactical adjustment, EDF started Eden Dzeko and Patrik Schick on the starting eleven on Sunday. Starting both strikers signaled a change in EDF’s thought process and tactics: more offense and keep up the pressure. Dzeko assumed at his natural position while Shick moved over the wing, a position where he has not traditionally produced. In-form El Shaarawy was used as a substitute at a reasonable time in place for Alessandro Florenzi who was underwhelming at left wing. The entire offense played with enthusiasm and looked willing to take chances, many of which could have been buried in net if it were not for the fantastic goaltending from Gianluigi Donnarumma. Roma need to build on their new found momentum when they visit last-place Chievo Verona on Friday. Barring calamity next week, Di Francesco is safe for now.

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Pellegrini, Under, and Zaniolo

Roma ended the match with ten corner kicks, the majority of which were taken by Pellegrini. One never sensed that Milan faced any real danger in the box during Roma’s several chances. For a team that was gifted so many opportunities, they wasted a great deal of them. Will Pellegrini continue to take those all-important corners, or will adjustments be made? If changes are in order, soon to be relegated Chievo Verona may provide the perfect opportunity for EDF to experiment with a new corner taker.

Speaking of creating offensive chances that lead to goals, it is clear that Roma greatly miss Cengiz Under’s creativity. There is no set timetable for Under’s return from a muscular thigh injury.

On a night where the Giallorossi probably could have scored three or four goals, the only one that ended up in the back of the net came from Nicolo Zaniolo. Zaniolo, who was recently handed the starting job in midfield, hasn’t looked back since. Continually showing up on the score sheet or in the newspapers, Zaniolo may be worth the price of admission alone. It will be very interesting to see what the youngster is capable on football’s biggest stage when Roma face Porto on February 12th in the Round of 16.

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We’re unlikely to see any changes on defense for the rest of the season

From left to right – Kolarov, Fazio, Manolas, and Karsdorp seem to be locked into the starting back four for the remainder of the season. The defensive corps was rightfully criticized after conceding seven goals to Fiorentina and as fans were expecting the club to bring in another defenseman at the transfer deadline, no such action occurred. Roma will prosper or perish with this group, the only foreseeable change on the horizon might be Florenzi moving into Karsdorp’s spot once Under is healthy.

Olsen throwing away good faith that was built earlier this season

Despite the much-maligned defense, Robin Olsen has inspired little confidence during these past few starts. Many thought that Roma should not have suffered several of those seven goals against Fiorentina had Olsen made some routine saves. This thought process continued on into Sunday’s match when Kryzsztof Piatek scored a relatively easy goal against the Swedish goaltender to break open a match that Roma dominated. At the other end of the field, Gianluigi Donnarumma had the exact opposite performance, putting on an absolute clinic in goaltending.

All hail Donnarumma

Roma had some very decent chances to score in both halves as they pushed the offensive tempo. Gianluigi Donnarumma who is considered unanimously to be Buffon’s heir apparent in net for Italy’s national team has already established himself among the best in the world, saved this game for Milan. Were it not for save after incredible save from the teenager, Roma could have pulled away quite easily. As Milan continue to fill out their team in order to return to their status as Champions League contenders, they should not overlook how important world-class goaltending is to achieve that goal. Milan needs to be acutely aware of what a treasure they have in net and pay this man whatever he wants when the time arrives. Roma, who arguably held the best goaltender in the world with Alisson Becker last season, made a very good push to the Champions League final. Alisson, like Donnarumma, was able to cover up many of the club defensive deficiencies, keep games close, and steal wins or ties that the club had no business competing in.

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About Robert Theodorson 21 Articles
Robert Theodorson has previously covered NHL prospects on Hockey's Future and a multitude of sports and teams on Bleacher Report.

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